Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You Can Shoot Your Toe Off With That Thing

I met my new reading student today.  Oh, I was going to quit volunteering for this program, but it's a good program.  Adults are matched with kids to read, write, and talk once a week for a half an hour.  The teachers swear that it works.  Okay by me.  I like sitting in the library with kids.  I like reading with them. 

I was going to quit.  See, my boy has gone on to middle school.  He likes middle school and they're starting to ask me to help out with stuff there.  Last week, I spent the afternoon working with the coach to keep the kids from shooting each other in the butt as they learned archery.  It was fun.  I also work in the library at the middle school.  I love being a librarian.  When it isn't too busy, I get to ask the kids what they're reading, if they think my Nick would like the book they just finished reading.  That's good stuff.  I really want to spend all my time in the library reading and talking about books.  I'm also going to be a chaperone for the school dance on Friday.  How cool is that?  I get to watch those awkward movements the kids will take toward each other.  After the last dance, Nick said that it was really embarrassing to hold onto a girl's waist to dance.  They are just so used to keeping their hands to themselves that this sanctioned touching feels strange to them.  You can see that I'm busy.  Really, I don't need to be volunteering still at the elementary school. 

But I am.

So today, I met the boy I'll be reading with.  He's a nice kid. 

"So what's going on with you?" I asked him.

"I'm going hunting with my dad," he said.  This boy is seven!  I have to tell you that I'm an advocate for kids learning how to handle a gun, how to use the safety, what to do if another kid brings out a gun when his parents are away, even how to shoot safely.  But seven????

I kept my mouth shut, sort of.

"Wow, have you gone before?" I asked.

"No.  It's my first time."  Thank God for small favors.  At least this kid, as a four year old, wasn't out in the woods where I hike with Teddy, Mike, and Nick, waving a tiny rifle around.

"Have you taken a hunter's safety course?  I heard they're a lot of fun," I said. 

"No, what's that?" he said. 

In my mind, I ticked off the people I'd known who'd had accidents with guns. 
  • Mark Harper was shot in the stomach by his older brother when he was ten.  His older brother was thirteen. 
  • Billy Reilly, my step-cousin, shot off his toe while cleaning his shot gun when he was fourteen.
  • My great uncle, who I didn't technically know, propped his gun on a fence line and crossed it.  He died when his gun fell and discharged accidentally.  He was nineteen.
  • And there was an engineer I worked with that shot himself in the leg doing a quick-draw when he'd been drinking.  He was twenty-three.
Guns can be wickedly deceptive if you don't have training.  The worst thing that people don't even realize they're doing is to have their finger on the trigger as they walk around with a gun.  I look for that when I'm at the range with Nick and Adrian.  Shoot, I pay attention to it when I sometimes do it without thinking about what I'm doing.  With a gun, you always have to be thinking about what you're doing. 

Oh, I want to tell you that I'm no expert.  I'm really not.  I just like being smart around guns.

The Boy Scouts have definite rules about when you can use knives and guns.  Scouts can get their archery and BB shooting pins as long as it's in a range at Boy Scout camp when they're six.  They can get their whittling chips when they're seven.  They can shoot rifles at Boy Scout camp when they're eleven.  They're pretty firm about these ages.  The funny thing is that two years in a row, the seven year old boys in our Pack were mistakenly allowed to get their whittling chips at camp.  Those two summers, there were a rash of accidental cuts, a few which required stitches.  Well, it's no wonder.  Most seven year old boys just don't have the brain development to safely use a pocket knife, even if they are trained to follow the basic rules of safety. 

So how does that translate to using a gun?  In my opinion, that boy, the boy I read with, is three or four years off from being ready to shoot a gun in the woods and even then, he should be taking a hunter safety course before going out. 

Now, I liked this kid today.  I really did. 

I'm just not sure I'm ever going to see him again.  Let's hope I do.

Thank you for listening, jb

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